In Community, Culture

Beacon Hill vs. the Polar Vortex

Michigan winters are not for the faint of heart! With its record-breaking low temperatures, snowstorm after ice storm, and event cancellations state-wide, 2019’s Polar Vortex was challenging for everyone. But at Beacon Hill, staff accepted the challenges head-on and pulled together in remarkable ways to provide outstanding service and care.

Regardless of what Mother Nature decides to throw at us, our team can’t stop. We take our commitment to those we serve seriously, and we live it out in our everyday work. After all, we love what we do, this is our community, and this is what community is all about.

“We Don’t Have Snow Days”

Beacon Hill is open 365 days a year, 24-hours a day, and a winter storm, even of this magnitude, could not stop our staff from providing exceptional care and service.

When the temperatures dipped well below zero and the windchill was as low as -40, it was downright dangerous to be outside for very long. Bundled head-to-toe in their warmest winter gear, our maintenance team stepped out into the cold air to work, taking shifts day and night to ensure driveways were plowed, sidewalks were shoveled, and emergency exits were salted and clear.

Resident Services Manager, Ryan Jones, commented on his staff, “They make us look good. Everyone on the team showed up, without hesitation. Some drove over 45 minutes just to get to work, but this place is our responsibility.” He added, “We’re a family, and families help one another—especially in events like these. After all, we don’t have snow days!”

Home Away from Home

On Sunday before the impending Vortex was to hit, our Director of Nursing, Amanda Daggett, began making phone calls to all scheduled nursing staff to be certain all shifts would be covered. “We’re a 24-hour operation and I needed to know my staff was going to be here. Not one person used the winter roads as an excuse.”

To make it easier on staff who might have a hard time driving back and forth to work, our Sales Counselor, Ann Flynn, made open rooms in Assisted Living available for staff to sleep in. She and her son came in the Sunday before the storm to prep the rooms. They fluffed pillows, made beds with fresh, warm linens, stocked shampoo and conditioner, and hung towels for staff who needed a “home away from home.” During the week, we laundered clothes and fed staff who stayed with us. It truly was “home.”

Some staff not only worked their own shifts, but they also offered to work as many hours as needed to cover those who might have a hard time getting to work.

Making the Drive

Throughout the ordeal, the staff maintained our 22+ acre campus, ensuring the safety of residents and guests coming and going into our buildings. We paid attention to more than just our campus, though! The team plowed driveways of Eastgate neighbors and shoveled walks of those who might not have been able to do so on their own. Our trucks moved snow that was piling up on neighbors’ sidewalks and driveways and helped push a few cars on the slick roads.

While many residents chose to cancel appointments, Beacon Hill provided rides to those who had critical medical appointments. And staff from the President on down offered rides to other staff in an effort to make sure employees could be here for their shifts. Volunteers drove without hesitation to pick one another up. A chef experiencing car trouble in the midst of the snowstorm reached out, and a fellow chef picked him up. Our Clinical Assistant, Bridgette, “loves to drive in this stuff” and, without being asked, came in on her vacation day and drove around to pick people up or take them home.

Jeff Huegli, our President, commented: “There’s a saying, ‘When the going gets tough, the tough get going.’ I’m so grateful for our team and proud of how they brought to life in this tough moment what the culture of hospitality at Beacon Hill really looks like—individual personal care and kindness.”

Frozen Fiesta

When cold, snowy, and seemingly endless gray days drag on, imagine being suddenly transported to a warm and sunny location. Delicious smells entice you; joyful music plays, and bright cheerful colors dance through every corner of the room. The outdoors just seems to melt away.

That’s how the dining team embraced being short-staffed … with creativity and flair. Knowing that a buffet would allow them to better serve residents with fewer servers, they created a “Chuckwagon Buffet” one evening, right down to gingham tablecloths, sunflowers, and wagon wheels to make the experience just right. The residents were grateful for the “getaway” and the limited staff managed the meal without missing a beat.

Working as a team is incredibly important to Executive Chef, Timothy England, who reminded his staff “to watch out for one another.” That Tuesday, the weather worsened as the day went on; so the entire culinary team decided they would all leave at one time, as fast as they could wrap up dinner service. “This created amazing energy in the kitchen. Servers were helping wash dishes, chefs were putting dishes away, and everyone pitched in wherever they could,” Chef Timothy explained.

Feed the Team 

The cuisine is one of the cornerstones of Beacon Hill. Our President, Jeff Huegli, and our Operations Director, April Schaab, reminded our service team just how important they are to those we serve by serving them food—bringing mountains of submarine sandwiches and chips and pizzas to the breakrooms for all three shifts to gobble up on their breaks. Jeff made a special, after-hours visit to our 3rd shift staff to thank them. When Nursing Director Amanda Daggett heard someone ask, “Why are we getting food today?” she warmly responded: “It’s Beacon Hill’s way of showing we’re thankful.” During this experience, we certainly all had much to be thankful for!

A Flurry of Thanks

Our residents were thankful, too! Notes flooded in to staff in the days and weeks that followed.

We want you to know how we admire all of the service employees who work at Beacon Hill. Please tell them we are very thankful for what each of these people did to help us all get through the last week.

Thank you for your hard work and many hours. We are so grateful.

It never occurred to me that the weather would get so bad that I wouldn’t be able to get out. It is hard to describe just how important and reassuring it is to know the staff has made every effort to make our lives just carry on.

I write to let you all know just how pleased and appreciative my neighbors and I are with the dining experience you provided us. It was cold outside, but the warmth inside was undeniable.

God bless you all.

We take our commitment to serve the residents of this community very seriously. Our service team always has the best interest of our residents, families and each other at heart. They are willing to do whatever it takes to give and live the very best life … even if the week’s very best life includes surviving a Polar Vortex.


Discover Your Best Life at Beacon Hill at Eastgate


Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Recent Posts
Bridging Our Communitygreat place to work
Please fill out this form to REGISTER.
Please fill out this application.